Researchers increasingly use social media, as a way of promoting and publicising their own work, and to build their professional network or to share and exchange ideas with like-minded colleagues. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can be used for a wide variety of personal and professional purposes.
There are dedicated professional or academic social networking sites such as Academia.edu, Research Gate or LinkedIn. These sites can be valuable as a way of building your online presence, however you should be aware that sharing your own published papers on a site such as Research Gate (such as journal articles) may infringe copyright, if you have assigned this to a publisher.
Depositing your research papers in your institutional repository is usually a safer way of sharing your research openly, where the dedicated team in the Library can ensure that open access policies of journal publications are adhered to. This may involve ensuring that a specified version of your research (such as the Author Accepted Manuscript) is deposited rather than the publisher’s final typeset copy.
If you use social media or social networking sites, then pay attention to any terms and conditions of use. You should check the type of licence you might be granting to the site over the re-use of your data such as your own personal information and any content that you upload to the site such as images and photographs.
You should also be mindful when sharing content on social media, for example if you include photographs or images then it is possible that others may decide to reuse them without your permission. If content is particularly sensitive or valuable to your research then be careful before deciding to share it on social media.
If you wish to re-use images belonging to others but shared on sites such as Twitter or Facebook, then remember these are protected by copyright and you are advised to obtain permission if you wish to re-publish them.
If you are responsible for University-branded social media accounts, you should refer to the University's Social Media Policy and guidance.
Social media can also be a valuable source of data for research purposes, for example researchers in disciplines such as Media and Communication studies might use sites such as Twitter to ‘mine’ hashtags and gather public opinion on topics. Anyone conducting research of this nature should consult the Association for Internet Researchers ethics guides to ensure they consider ethical and privacy issues before collecting data of this type.
The key issue is how to obtain consent for the use of data shared on social media by individuals and care should be taken to anonymise personal details. Westminster also have a governance and ethics framework which we strongly recommend you consult.
Disclaimer: The guide in no way substitutes for formal legal advice. If you are in any doubt or require further information we recommend you consult the sources of further advice at the end of this guide.